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Issue 75 - Bottle Stopping moments

Whisky Magazine Issue 75
October 2008


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Bottle Stopping moments

Ian Buxton finds out more about this tiny yet hugely significant part of whisky packaging.

The cork and elaborately engraved stopper on some luxury whiskies can end up costing you £3 or more, the cork itself has come on a fascinating journey and deserves your attention.

After all, it does an important job, quietly and well, and actually plays quite a role in keeping your whisky in peak condition.

Oh, and it sounds great, doesn't it? When you pull it from the neck of the bottle. What pleasures are hinted at in the simple, gentle pop of a cork.

If we step back into history, the driven cork (like the cork on today's wine bottles) was the standard closure when bottles first arrived on the whisky scene. But this required a corkscrew and was tricky to reseal. Moreover, as whisky sales grew round the world, problems developed with corks shrinking in the heat of markets such as India and new closures were adopted.

One of the first was the spring, or lever cap introduced with some fanfare by Dewar's in 1927 and widely taken up by a grateful industry and consumer. Today's screw cap arrived during the 1960s and has been the dominant closure ever since.

But the cork is making a comeback, and today is the closure of choice for most single malts and premium blends. It does add a touch of luxury and quality, after all, and as it comes from an oak tree is whisky's natural closure.

Quercus Suber, the cork oak, is native to the Western basin of the Mediterranean with around 25,000 square kilometres under cultivation. More than half of the trees are found in Portugal, where I ...

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